Fans of Microsoft’s Surface lineup have been clamoring for a Surface Phone for some time, and a new rumor that recently surfaced points to Microsoft answering that call with a folding device that bears a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. Paired up with concept renders and a suggestive patent image is news that the project is named Andromeda, and that early prototype units are already being shipped out to Microsoft’s partners for testing. The rumor says that the machine will sport an ARM port of the Windows 10 Core OS, and will use the recently revealed Polaris desktop shell.
The use of Windows 10 Core and Polaris means that the device will likely have a variable user interface that can function similarly to a desktop or laptop under the right circumstances. Though Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line picked up the ability to emulate x86 instruction sets with the current Snapdragon 835 flagship, there has thus far been no evidence that the rumored Andromeda device will be able to run legacy Win32 apps. In fact, all signs point to the opposite. Windows 10 Core and Polaris both center on using Universal Windows Platform apps. Apps and games built on this platform are agnostic when it comes to processor architecture, and will run just as easily on a desktop-grade Intel Core i7 processor as they would on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. The UWP framework is already in use, with a somewhat robust development community. Still, if the rumored Andromeda phone really does eschew Win32 compatibility, it will be unable to fully replace a laptop for many users.
As an aside, laptops running a basically full version of Windows 10 were unveiled back in December by HP and ASUS. These run on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 platform, and are perfectly capable of running x86 code. They use Windows 10 S out of the box, an OS that cannot run normal Win32 EXE files and only uses UWP apps, even in low-cost x86 machines that feature it. Both of these, however, can reportedly be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro, which means that they will use the Snapdragon 835’s x86 emulation to run legacy Win32 apps, albeit their performance will likely pale in comparison to devices with x86 processors. Only time will tell if Andromeda will have a similar option when or if Microsoft finally makes it official.